Denial and Suppression: Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms That Can Lead to Addiction

Suppressing emotions can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms that trigger addiction.

Unfortunately, our society tends to favor denial and suppression over expression and healing. It’s painful to talk about the past, the trauma, the hurt – and so for many Americans, the outcome results in pushing down the pain in an attempt to “move on” with our lives. Brian G. Lengfelder, an expert in psychology, stated in a presentation titled, “Clinical Education and Interventions for Defense Structures..” explained that defense mechanisms – such as denial and suppression – are a way for us to protect ourselves from feeling emotionally unstable. While this may help us in brief periods when we could act out or hurt someone, however, they’re not healthy coping mechanisms for long-term healing.

A previous study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco explained that some people are better at coping in healthier ways than others – and this could be due to a variety of factors, such as:

  • Genetics (such as if a person is pre-dispositioned to depression, anger, anxiety, etc.)
  • The way a person was raised and what they grew up seeing in their environment
  • Patterns developed from being friends with people who promote specific coping mechanisms
  • Major life events that have shaped the way a person deals with stressful events (such as trauma, an accident, the loss of a loved one, etc.)
  • And more

Denial and suppression are avoidance tactics that prevent a person from working through the pain they’re feeling; if those painful issues are never addressed, the underlying emotions will seep out in other ways – such as through substance abuse, aggression towards others, self-harm, depression, etc. If you’ve been drinking or using drugs to avoid facing the pain you’ve been feeling, it’s time to seek help.

Cumberland Heights has a team of healthcare professionals who are ready to help you work through what’s been holding you back – so that you can lead a happier, healthier life.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.